Teams of volunteers criss-crossed Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows on Valentine’s Day giving out hugs.
Hug Teams visited to Baillie House, McKenney Creek Hospice, Royal Crescent Gardens, Chartwell Willow Manor, Sunwood Retirement Home, Maple Towers, Osprey Village, Save On Foods in Westgate Mall, PATH and Rehab at the Ridge Meadows Hospital, the Greg Moore Youth Centre, both the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Seniors Centres.
They also set up a hugging station at the Family Education and Support Centre.
The goal behind this volunteer led, community-based event was to show people that they matter in the community.
Share A Hug co-coordinator Angie McLeod said they lost count of the number of people they hugged over the two hour period they were giving them.
There were four or five teams out in the community, she said, and each team had three or four people.
“Every senior that we connected with got a minimum of three or four hugs,” said McLeod, adding that people were very appreciative.
There was a woman at Maple Towers, said McLeod, who told them they had just made her day. And numerous people offered her team marriage proposals, “at the seniors centres anyway”.
“There were people who were hugging us and they didn’t say something, but they just kept hugging,” noted McLeod.
“I think there was one woman and we probably hugged her for six or 10 seconds, sort of a good solid hug, and she must have held onto us for at least a minute each,” she added.
The teams also had a great time, said McLeod.
“Such an amazing day! Thank you everyone! See you all next year,” said volunteer Wendy Upton.
“I just wanna say, of all the things I’ve done in my community, I think THIS has been the most meaningful ever,” said Brenda Norrie, the other coordinator.
Hugs can make people feel happy on one of the most difficult days of the year, especially those who have nobody, said the promotional flyer for the event.
They are important because they release a feel-good chemical called oxytocin in the body, they reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, increase self-esteem and reduce loneliness.
Hugs also decrease depression and anxiety, build trust and connections and increase happiness and personal well-being, said the flyer, adding that the ideal hug is one that is six to 20 seconds in length, belly to belly.
Teams were not able to give hugs at Baillie House but gave out valentines instead.
McLeod said there will be another hugging event next year.
Everybody who participated wants to do it again next year and the facilities they visited also said they would like to have them back, she said.